UNHCR Innovation

May 2, 2023

The Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced

UNHCR has been pursuing an agenda of enhanced connectivity and digital inclusion for forciblydisplaced people. In 2020, following an array of standalone efforts in pursuing these agendas– for example, through the 2016 Connectivity for Refugees Strategy – the organization begana journey to consolidate initiatives around digital transformation into a new organization-widestrategy. One priority outcome area is around digital inclusion that seeks to ensure forcibly displaced and stateless people “have equitable access to digital technology and channels and canuse them to pursue opportunities for lifelong learning, inclusion in the digital economy, leisure, and solutions.

”For a number of years, many digital inclusion interventions have been tied to specific developmental goals – enhanced education, use of digital financial services, greater access to information, among others. There is emerging evidence that challenges the notion that thosetargeted with such interventions prioritize connectivity for these purposes. Rather, the agendahighlights leisure as a key driver for adoption of digital technologies, and a critical use case forsuch technologies that bring indirect benefits beyond the ‘virtuous’ aims of humanitarian aid anddevelopment programmes globally.In this report, UNHCR and Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) scholars document the evidenceon digital leisure in the forced displacement context, highlighting issues unique to that context.

This report constitutes a continuation of the desk review, 1 and provides evidence from fieldwork carried out in two refugee shelters in the city of Boa Vista, Brazil – Rondon III and September 13 –at the end of 2021. The report focuses on the main uses and potential benefits of digital leisurein refugee contexts. It brings together evidence from Venezuelan forcibly displaced people with an emphasis on Brazil due to that country’s relevance in the human mobility context within theLatin American region.

The report aims to inform actors in the government, private, non-profit, and aid agency sectors who are interested in digital inclusion and rights-based solutions for forcibly displaced people.It provides insights about issues of access, privacy, and trust experienced by forcibly displaced persons while using devices and navigating connectivity in their everyday lives. It also explores the opportunities for community-building and local citizenship through content creation and connection with family, friends, and society at large. We reveal how digital leisure fosters unique opportunities for self-realization and shapes specific worldviews through their information practices in digital spaces. The possible livelihoods enabled by digital leisure and the aspirational digital lives of participating Venezuelan refugees and migrants are also explored.

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